‘Catch and release’ plan to tackle illegal fishing

Profile image for blacksteff0

By blacksteff0 | Monday, December 21, 2009, 22:58

ALL fishing in the Lower Stour and Christchurch Harbour is to change to ‘catch and release’ from January 1 as part of a crackdown on illegal angling.

A fall in the stocks of sea trout, bass and mullet over the last decade has been blamed on an increase in illegal fishing by rod and line and netting.

Anglers visiting the area are estimated to contribute more than £5 million to the Christchurch economy with bed and breakfast, food and drink and angling related purchases also benefiting. However, there are fears that that this figure will be hit – and fish stocks continue to decline – unless urgent action is taken to tackle illegal fishing.

Bournemouth & West Hampshire Water (BWHW) and Ringwood and District Angling Association are to take over joint management of the Lower Stour and Harbour from January 1. A number of changes are to take effect from that date including changing all fishing to a ‘sports fishery’, i.e catch and release.

Mike Rhodes, BWHW’s Property and Recreational Services Manager, said: “This is the only practical way forward and means species are returned to the water for the benefit of both the angler and the economy of Christchurch. “Fishing ‘catch and release’ is practised on many major sport fisheries across the world. It is something some fisheries need if we want to secure angling and fish stocks for future generations. ”The option of letting anglers take the odd fish ‘for the pot’ was considered but this would have made it difficult to bailiff.” The effects of the scheme will be reviewed each year.”

The decision to designate the Lower Stour and Harbour as a ‘sports fishery’ has been welcomed by the National Mullet Club (NMC) and Ringwood and District Angling Association (RDAA).

Steve Smith, NMC Chairman, said its catch records indicated a steady decline in grey mullet. He added: “The Christchurch Harbour mullet fishery is of national importance for recreational anglers. Having urged its protection over a number of years, we are pleased to see it safeguarded in this way.”

Peter Hutchinson, RDAA Chairman, said the association looked forward to returning the Lower Stour and Harbour to “its once famous position in the angling world.”

“The Lower Stour requires extremely efficient bailiffing to reduce the amount of non-permit holders poaching the water. Improved general upkeep and maintenance of this water is also desperately required and RDAA already has plans in place to deal with these problems from January 1.”  He also added that “Christchurch Harbour also suffers and RDAA has committed to assist BWHW to reduce poaching and illegal fishing, improving and protecting fry nursery areas and general fish stocks. By doing so, we will be returning this harbour to one of the premier sports fisheries in the country, both for coarse and sea species.”

Other changes from January 1, 2010, include the introduction of boat fishing licences which are only available from BWHW. Fishermen who wish to fish from a boat must now purchase a boat fishing licence at a cost of £60 per annum. Application forms are available from BWHW. New arrangements for day tickets for casual fishermen are now available from Davis Tackle shop on Bargates.

BWHW is also introducing free day tickets for children under 12 years of age in order to encourage youngsters to try the sport.



  • Profile image for silvertide

    illegal fishing accounts for the loss of a few fish but nothing compared to legal fishing below the harbour line,where mullet are being hammered as the price has risen to 2 pound a pound at plymouth market,1000 lb catches are not unusual with mullet up to 12 lb you can not blame the fisherman for taking advantage as it is there living but it puts the new rules applied to the harbour in a poor light as with most of the poorly thought out fishery managment implimentations.
    the harbour heaved with fish at one time but the lack of fish has far more to do with external facters than the small percentage that were taken obove the line

    By silvertide at 17:33 on 30/11/10

  • Profile image for MrBobBobly

    If you catch the fish why should you not be allowed to take it home? Commercial fishing reduces the stocks of fish, not those of us with a single rod sat on the bank participating in a battle of wills with the fish. If they get away, then they live another day. If they get caught, they end up on my plate and no law is going to stop that from happening.

    By MrBobBobly at 19:15 on 09/06/10

  • Profile image for DomCar

    Having worked for a seafood company in the past I am aware of the importance of sustainable fishing, so I think having a catch and release policy in Christchurch is a very good idea. Let's hope people pay attention to it.

    By DomCar at 10:17 on 07/06/10

  • Profile image for triaxiom

    I appreciate that there is no simple solution to the poaching problem or illeagal commercial fishing of the harbour, but I do feel legitimate anglers are being penalised once again. Very few anglers take mullet 'for the pot' and there is most defiantely no decline in their numbers - each year sees bigger shoals with higher average weights. Bass are, and have always been a law unto themselves - more are acidental captures by coarse or game anglers than are caught as a targeted species. Flounder fishing in the harbour can also be pretty hit and miss as well. Most of the flounder marks are only accessable by boat and through the winter months you are unlikely to see more than one or two anglers on the water at weekends.
    This leaves gamefish, and here I suspect lies the real reason for the new measures. Only today I was mullet fishing (without success) with bread flake and suceeded in catching three large seatrout in one hour! Needless to say I returned them, but perhaps some other anglers wouldn't have. This is not an uncommon occurance as I frequently catch seatrout in the harbour on just about any bait from flake through to ragworm. It would be fair to guess that harbour anglers account for far more seatrout captures than game anglers up river do.
    Perhaps the answer should be better fishery management and policing rather than these new draconian measures which have removed the incentive to fish the harbour at all for a lot of local anglers.

    By triaxiom at 22:50 on 04/06/10

  • Profile image for SwampMan101

    As a cristchurch angler, I approve of the idea of maintaing fish stocks. Now there is full time Bailifs, surely the two fish bag limiet can be enforced. The limiet has gone from one extreme to the other. No local anglers will buy or fish the harbour so you will loose Income. Maybe there can be a compromise.


    By SwampMan101 at 17:21 on 11/03/10

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